Some used their thumb, others swaddled a mangled blanket, and a few were content on their own. For my sense of security as a child, I had Mary.
Or as my mother called her, Punk Rocker Mary.
Being the loving pretend-mother I was, I carried my prized doll around everywhere – by her hair. She’d go sledding down our snowy backyard, take dives in our kiddie pool, and she’d dig with me while I looked for buried treasure outside. I refused to go anywhere without her and though I gave her hair that stuck up 90 degrees, she was always up for the ride, and I felt safe dragging her along.
One afternoon, when my family was at one of those highly classy North Carolina flea markets (no judging) – I left Mary in my stroller to get an ice cream cone with my mom, and when we looked back, she’d disappeared. To this day, we’re not sure if she fell out or someone stole her (with her crazy locks, why would anyone want to?), but I was devastated. My mom forced my dad to go buy another Mary to keep me from hysterics, but I wanted nothing to do with the imposter: if I couldn’t have Ms. Punk Rocker, I didn’t want anything.
It’s no surprise people attach meaning to objects – it’s the reason athletes wear the same jersey for weeks or CEOs only sign documents with the same fancy pen – though it may just be another thing to most, once emotion is enveloped, it’s hard to take it away.
While Mary meant everything to me at one time, like we all do, I moved on to the next something that would give me that peace of mind. I found Sammy, a stuffed animal I slept with until I went away to school, a change purse I swore was lucky during middle school, and a pair of jeans that made me feel so incredibly sexy and skinny during college, that I only recently gave in and threw them out a few months ago. Until I actually moved to New York, I held onto the Metro card I used two summers previous during my internship, just in case I never had the opportunity to return.
And that same transitional sense of attachment has been just as adhesive in past relationships.
When a love starts to fizzle or I can feel myself strapping on my walking-away boots, prepared for the right moment to suck it up and strut away – I start to notice that ping in the corners of my heart that question: What if I don’t meet anyone who makes me feel this way again? What if I don’t feel as secure and comfortable and loved? I mean, what if this is it and I screw it up?
Perhaps I should be asking though, why is it that the thought of moving on is more difficult than the act itself? Doesn’t moving on happen naturally but deciding it’s time to leave can be more painful, more intense, more relentless than any breakup? That sometimes, we’d prefer our dolls, or our men, to just be stolen away, so there would be no gray area to navigate.
After receiving a text message from an ex who will be interviewing in New York soon, I thought back to the months we shared when his presence, his companionship, his midnight kisses on my shoulder – meant everything to me. With him and with pretty much any man I’ve shared a part of myself with, was for a fleeting moment, a huge part of my life. They were the person I talked to each day, the person (besides my mom) I called when something incredible happened, or the individual who knew the most about me at that given stage in my life. A relationship by its definition causes two people to coexist, to be together – emotionally, sexually, spiritually, or otherwise – for the time they are meant to be in whatever form, side-by-side.
And then, as all things change, all things transition, and pages turn quicker than I could ever write them – love fades. Intensity becomes extinguished. People move. We grow apart. No common ground can be found. Eyes wonder, along with hands. Stolen moments turn into bittersweet memories. And then we find ourselves, weeks, months, years – decades – down the road, not even having a clue what someone is up to. Not knowing, for the life of us, where they live, who they work for, or if they’re happy. In some cases, maybe we don’t care and can’t be bothered to send an email (or add as a friend on Facebook), but isn’t it funny how our partners-of-yesterday become the strangers-of-today? And those strangers we passed hours ago, could be the lovers we eventually never go a day without seeing?
How our security blanket of love, the stability and commitment that comes with a relationship, continuously crumbles and is rebuilt, time and time again, with revolving faces and places we can never quite predict. And though when we first turn our backs, release the protection, the safe harbor of togetherness, and sail into the single sea (where we’re told there are many fish) – we’re terrified. Yet, give us a few miles, smooth waters, and tidal waves to battle – and we’ll be fine. We won’t even see the shore we left anymore, except for those rare occasions when something triggers a memory, but rather, we’ll only see new horizons.
Isn’t that what moving on is all about?
A friend of mine once told me the people we meet – romantically involved or not – come into our life for a reason, for a season, or forever, and the point of the relationship or friendship is to determine which one this person will be. In some cases, I agree with her but in most, I’m under the belief that everyone, no matter what impression they make, comes into our lives at the right moment, for a purpose, and that lesson, that value they were designed to give to us – will forever be part of who we are.
Perhaps learning to love yourself, letting go of not only past heartbreaks and destructive mentalities, is accepting that maybe, it’s okay to remember the good. To remember that simple security that comes with a person you admired or loved and to trust that if you can feel it once, you can feel it again. That if lucky charms and skinny jeans have taught us anything – it’s that the greatest strength, the purest magic isn’t in an object or a relationship, but the credence we put behind it. That moving on doesn’t mean forgetting, it just means believing in the present and in the future – more than you do the past.
And that security we seek, in its most powerful and protective form, must first and foremost, start with being secure in ourselves. Even when we’re one baby doll, one lover, or one something-less.